Theses Doctoral

Examining Participation in Formal Education and Exposure to Violence among Girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Landis, Debbie

Protection from violence, and access to formal education, are fundamental human rights for girls in conflict-affected societies. And yet, war exposes girls to an increased risk of exposure to violence, and serves as a well-known barrier to their involvement in school. While these risks are widely recognized within the fields of international education and humanitarian affairs, significant gaps exist within the peer-reviewed literature. Existing studies tend to focus generally on violence against girls in conflict-affected societies without accounting for issues of education. Or, studies focus exclusively on violence in and around school settings, although only investigate violence against students who are currently in school. As a result, the differential experiences with violence among girls based on varying levels of involvement (or lack thereof) in formal education are not well known.
In light of these issues, this dissertation examines the relationship between girls’ level of participation in formal education, and exposure to violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while accounting for Ecological factors (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) in girls’ lives, families, and communities. A quantitative survey was conducted with girls (ages 10-14) and caregivers across 14 sites in South Kivu. Findings suggest that higher levels of participation in formal education were associated with lower rates of violence among girls. Child marriage— itself considered a form of violence according to human rights norms— was seen to disrupt the protective relationship between education and violence, and expose married girls to higher rates of violence overall. Further, equitable gender norms on the part of girls and their caregivers emerged as significant factors contributing to girls’ involvement in higher levels of formal education.
Taken cumulatively, findings from this research suggest a need to engage in Ecological interventions with girls, families, and communities in order to prevent the occurrence of violence and ensure that girls have access to formal education that is protective, of good quality, and promotes their overall development and well-being. In addition to filling vital gaps in the literature, these findings hold the potential to inform program and policy development not only in the DRC, but in conflict-affected societies more broadly.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Russell, Susan G.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 19, 2018